REFLECTION: Painting onto a variety of grounds

On reflection, painting on a variety of grounds has definitely aided my learning and expanded my knowledge as an artist. Below I have highlighted the successes and failures of working with six different grounds. I have also noted my thoughts and potential uses for the grounds that haven’t been successful for this project work.

Burnt Umber – Dark Brown 

Dark Brown is definitely the one of the most successful grounds for this kind of painting. It was incredibly effortless to create shadows because I didn’t have to paint the dark areas, I just used the ground to guide me. It was easier to paint and focusing on the highlights allowed me to create a far more successful image than if I was simply working on white.

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Mid Tone Ground

A mid-tone ground worked quite well, but it didn’t allow for a dark feeling painting. It is quite unsuccessful really and does not heighten the feeling of loneliness as much as a darker tone ground. Also, I found myself using the ground to guide the highlights in the image which I feel made the image look quite flat and I don’t feel there is enough contrast between the figures and the surrounding here. I am incredibly surprised by how much a ground beneath a painting actually affects the outcome in the end.

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Red Textured Ground

This textured ground made it very difficult to paint the straight edges of the buildings and figures within the outcome. However, I feel quite an interesting effect has been created here. To me the red ground made the scene look almost apocalyptic which isn’t exactly the feeling I was trying to create, so in that respect it is unsuccessful, but using a textured ground was a valuable insight into effects that can be created with grounds and demonstrated to me what my tutor meant by making more work for yourself when painting on an uneven ground.

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Cadmium Yellow Ground

The cadmium yellow ground did weird and wonderful things to my painting. I like the effect it created and the yellow highlights peaking through as if the sun is shining, but it does produce a positive feeling so is unsuccessful in aiding the portrayal of loneliness in the city. In the future, if I am thinking about light or painting sun light, I will consider using a cadmium yellow ground.

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Dark Brown Textured Ground

Textured  grounds could definitely be interesting to explore and would undoubtedly benefit an abstract piece of work, but in this painting, even though I like the effect created, it was difficult to paint any straight edges because of all the lumps and bumps. I kind of feel that the attention is detracted from the subject a little bit by the interesting textures and palette knife work highlighting the surface.

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Black Emulsion Ground

The black emulsion ground is also incredibly successful. It is between this ground and the dark brown as to which one has worked best.  Again, It was effortless to create shadows because I didn’t have to paint the dark areas, I just used the ground to guide me. I would say this is so successful because the highlights and white figures really stand out and the darkest areas are black so there is a lot of contrast within the work.

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On reflection, painting on a variety of grounds has undoubtedly been a valuable exercise. I have learnt first hand, how the colour or texture of a ground can affect that final outcome. I have also learnt the importance of choosing the correct ground to work with and how some grounds can make the painting you are producing easier to paint or vice versa. It is important to consider how the ground that you choose could affect the mood of the piece as here some of the grounds have helped heighten a dark mood and loneliness and others haven’t. The textures grounds definitely made it more difficult to paint figuratively but could be incredibly useful and valid for abstract works. Now that I have experimented with grounds, I will produce a large piece on a dark ground to add to its success and highlight my findings from these explorations.

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A Walk in Cardiff: Photographs of People in the City

I took some more photographs of people in the City, again there was minimal interaction and I noticed many lonely beings. I will use these images to produce some more photo manipulation experiments and to explore ways of showing loneliness in the city by editing my images by hand.

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I had a tutorial today and the tutor seemed to like my photo cut outs and tracing paper experiments so I plan on using these images to work with those ideas and develop ways of portraying urban loneliness through photo manipulation further.


PAINT WORKSHOP: Session 2: Colour, Pattern and Dry-Brushing

We were asked to bring our Green tone underpaintings along to this session with a view to working on top of them with more realistic colours. The idea was to see how the underpainting informed the painting produced on top. The tutor showed us an example of a green underpainting that he has been working on and showed us a few techniques to think about when painting on top of our pieces. He asked us to think about pattern, and how using pattern in painting can be effective. He used the example of wood grain within our still lifes and delicately showed us how to apply thin brush strokes using a small brush. Next, he showed us a technique known as “dry-brushing”, which is when you almost scuff the surface with paint. It is best to use an old brush for this and it was a valid way of applying paint for us in this workshop, because the highlights, lowlights and green tones of our underpaintings could show through the new thin layer of paint being applied.

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We were then left to experiment with these techniques and start building up a more realistic image of our still lifes using more accurate colours. I started my piece by observing the texture of the surface that it was on, this week there were no tables left and I had placed my items on an orangey brown canvas chair which worked out really well for adding colour to my painting. I used a dotting effect and spotted pattern to render the chair and then used the dry brushing technique to add a scuffed orange colour over the top, allowing the green to show through slightly. Dry brushing over the pattern also gave emphasis to the dots themselves and it started to look highly textured and effective.

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I continued employing these techniques and built up a substantial amount of colour within my work. It was really interesting how I found myself being informed by the shadows and highlights that I had thought about when producing the underpainting in the first place. The green tones showing through also seemed to give my painting a lot more texture made it look more three-dimensional. The green underpainting definitely effected the colours that I painted on top. For example, The photograph that is laying on the book was painted in dark greys but when applied on top of green, pink tones were emerging, which was highly interesting.

I have learnt a lot from these sessions and underpainting and dry brushing are definitely techniques I will be using in my painting in the future. I will now continue working and finish this piece in my own time ready for the next session on Monday.


REFLECTION: Update to Studio Space: Moving forward

I have been highly interested in the project I am working on and have experimented with different ways of portraying the hidden loneliness of the city, I have worked with a variety of techniques including sketching, painting, mixed media work, photo manipulation, monoprint, working with drawing inks and photography. In order to take a step back and look at all the things I have created and worked with, I decided to update my Studio Space. I felt this would inform my decision to move on in the project and ponder over the work already done to progress to creating new work within this project.

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Looking at my experiments all together allowed me to analyse how well I am portraying my chosen subject, I think I am showing the hidden loneliness within cities quite successfully in my work as a whole, but particularly when working with the idea of one person in detail within my work and all the others portrayed as silhouettes or painted in white, so this is something I will continue to work with. I also think the painting experiments using dark colours are a particularly successful element and I am now going to work on a larger piece using these techniques. Looking back, the monoprints are not as successful as I would like them to be, so I think I will produce a few more and take more time on them.

From attending the grounds workshop, I have learnt that the ground can affect the way the end result of a painting looks massively so I would like to experiment with creating experiments incorporating lonely figures working on top of a variety of grounds. I would also like to create a piece iincorporating multiple layers of glazes to build depth into my loneliness work, so this is something I will also work with. Considering all this work together has made me consider the fact that the colouring of it all is very monochrome, sepia and dark. It has encouraged me to think about maybe trying to show loneliness when using bright colours or to experiment with the idea of colour showing how the city is glamourized and a lone figure portraying the reality for many. I would also like to experiment with a few mediums, inspired by the workshop I attended on Wednesday.

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From looking at this work all together and thinking about what I have learnt in the workshops I have undertaken, I have plenty of work to be getting on with and can start working with ways to move my project forward and focus on its success. Last term, one of the criticisms in my feedback was that I didn’t really reflect and may have disregarded it as I’d been so hard-working. I see this as incredibly valuable feedback now because It was definitely worthwhile updating my studio space and looking back and reflecting on what I have produced so far. It can undoubtedly kick-start your ideas on how to progress and help you decide what you would like to produce next.


Paint Workshop : Paint, Mediums and Glazes

Today, I attended an incredibly interesting workshop, where the tutor talked about paint, mediums that we can mixed with both oil paint and acrylic paint, varnishing, adding colour, layering colour and glazing with many layers of paint. I learnt so much this morning and I will outline all of the things that learnt during this workshop below.

Oil Paint and Acrylic Paint is made from the same pigment. Burnt Sienna is an exception to this rule, as art students we probable rarely use real burnt sienna pigment, it is now mostly synthetic. Certain pigments within paint have certain qualities, for example Naples Yellow has a thick and buttery quality to it and Rose Madder comes from a natural dye and is more of a liquid paint. Paints have very individual qualities but the only reason for this is the medium that is added.

Commonly, artists may use turpentine to thin oil paint however, turps evaporates and leaves nothing for the colour to bind to. Turpentine is not a medium and it shouldn’t be used to think  oil paints. Linseed oil is the correct medium for this purpose, the colours don’t become transparent when using it and the paint binds easily. The thinner the paint you want, the more Linseed Oil you would add. Mediums give you the potential to change the consistency of paint by adding them to it. You can also use mediums to increase the drying time of oil paint.

To make oil paint, you use Linseed oil, you use it to extend oil paint also. Refined Linseed oil will slow dow the drying time when using oils. Stand oil is exactly the same material as linseed oil, its a lot thicker in consistency and because it is thicker, it tend to get rid of brush marks when it is mixed with paint and applied. If making acrylic paint, you wouldn’t use Linseed oil, you’d use an acrylic medium and copolymer, a colourless acrylic paint with pigment. This mixture should then b ground together as if you don’t bits of pigment will be floating in it. However, this could be a desirable effect to use within your work. If you extend acrylic colours with PVA Homopolymer the paint will become glossy and plasticky. You can add a matting agent to if afterwards if you want to get rid of the glossy effect. The paint will be a lot thinner when you add copolymer but you can thicken it uo with copolymetric thickener. The more you add the thicker it gets but if you put too much it will solidify. It is really interesting to me that making and using mediums is like baking and following a recipe. If you wanted your paint to be thick, chalky and dry you could add powders to it. With Acrylic, you could paint a thicker mixture of paint and powder on and it would be dry and ready to work with in just 30 minutes. Acrylic paint is a glue, if you were using it with collage, it would stick the collage material to the painting. Acrylic is a lot less harmful than oil paint. Oil materials involve solvents and chemicals, also acrylic paint has a greater rang of consistencies. For example, you cannot make matt oil paint. The possibilities are greater with acrylic but oil paint is still favoured.

 Acrylic didn’t used to be very permanent when it first came out, it cracked and the colour often faded over time. Colour Field artists were given acrylic paint to experiment with and started creating new ways of applying large expanses of colour like pouring it onto the canvas.

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Now acrylic is a lot better and almost on parr with oils. Oil Paint comes in many different grades. The difference between student grade oil paint and an artist quality paint is that there is more pigment in artist quality paint and it contains real pigment where as student paints tend to be coloured with dye.  I didn’t realise until undertaking this workshop that paint can carry a safety warning. Naples Yellow is  like arsenic, it is highly poisonous. In student quality paint, there is no real Naples yellow pigment so its safe, but artists quality is toxic and does contain it. The reason you would use artists quality paint is usually if you were adding mediums to it, you would get more mileage out of it and the colour would still be rich even though mediums have been added.

Mediums and Varnish being different is a myth. Mediums and varnishes are the same material. If you are putting the material into paint it is known as a medium. If you are painting it on top of a painting it is known as a varnish. The way the material is used affects its name, not the material itself. A typical medium make up is 1 portion of oil, 1 portion of varnish and 4 portions of turps. You can obtain varnish in crystal form. It comes from a tree and is what you make damar varnish from. You would put a crystal in a cloth bag, hang it in a jar and fill the jar with turps. Damar varnish is a finishing varnish. Years ago, artists thought that the surface of a painting should be even and covered it in varnish to bring the painting to life. The disadvantage of all varnishes is that they eventually yellow and could turn a shade of brown. Industrial varnishes yellow even quicker. Varnish can also be used as a dryer. All paints conform to varying levels of transparency. If you make brighter colours transparent on a white background, they glow.

Wax is a painting medium, and allows you to work with incredibly thick paint, Microcrystalline wax is cold wax and is very thin but has a definite presence if used within art work. Hot wax makes an incredibly thick paint when oil paint is added to it. This can be seen in the work of Jasper Johns.

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Wax has a quality that is unlike oil and acrylic, it is sort of in-between. Egyptians used it to bind the painting they did onto caskets. Wax painting holds every single mark of the brush used to apply it. Another artist that has worked with wax is Terry Setch, he uses buckets of it and embeds things within the wax.

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Layering paint is an interesting idea. Painting one colour on top of another colour makes a third colour. In Rembrandt’s work. There are about 30 layers of slightly different colours, creating a new colour every time. Landscape Painters used layering to produce greens back when they were inaccessible. It is very difficult to describe the amalgams of colour that are created through layering. The combinations of glazes can be incredibly complex or incredibly simple. You can use layering and glazing to modify a colour. If a colour has become too cold, yu can make it warmer by applying a thin yellow glaze and vice versa, if it has become to warm you could use a thin blue glaze to cool it down.

You could mix up a heavy dark colour of glaze and use a soft cloth to take glaze away and allow the white behind it (as long as you had used a white ground) to come through. you can reveal the underneath colour and build up highlights and shadows this way within a painting. Rather than adding white, you are creating volumetric space. Layering glazes creates volumetric colour and depth.

Today there are many new mediums that are ready-made like synthetic resins. Liquin is an example. Spectra-Gel means you can put a glaze over something with thin, minimal colour, but with an incredibly thick paint consistency. The medium itself has a jelly like consistency and makes thick paint dry a lot quicker. Alcaflow is treacle in consistency amd tends to get rid of brush marks. Spectraflow is a thinner version of spectra gel. Spectra gel responds to friction, if you used a palette knife to apply it, it can flatten out if you over work it. Synthetic resins are much more prone to yellowing than traditional varnishes. You wouldn’t use synthetic resins as finishing varnishes.

Under taking this workshop has made me want to get samples of mediums and just have a little play  with them and investigate how they change paint. I am going to experiment with how using a ground changes the end result of a painting and I will also experiment with how mediums can effect end results of pieces too. I came back from the workshop with a Jar of acrylic co-polymer to play around with as a starting point.


Initial Experimenting with Monoprint – Loneliness amongst Crowds in the City

I have been experimenting with paint and ink and photo manipulation a lot so far. I think this is going well but I now I wanted to experiment with different mediums and different techniques of producing imagery. Here, I have experimented with mono print, a simple transfer technique that involved spreading ink onto perspex, placing a surface like newsprint on top and drawing into the ink so that it prints onto the paper. I thought about the fact that being alone in the city around others is out of your control, even if you smile at someone or try to converse they are not guaranteed to do the same back. In monoprinting, You are drawing into the paper and cannot see the result until it is finished. As a technique, the result of monoprinting is highly out of your control as well so I felt it was appropriate printing method to explore this loneliness through.

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I used a basic ball point pen to draw into the paper, pressing firmly, it was an easy tool to use to ensure the ink printed onto the other side, It also helped me achieve sharp lines and to draw quickly within the method of continuous line and cross hatching.

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I started by printing onto newsprint, an incredibly thin paper and not pressing too hard. An image of the result achieved is above, The lines were sharp and it does have a nice inky quality to it, but I think the colour of the paper is a bit too bright and stark for the ink. Even thought it is quite eery looking and the people do look lonely in the city, I thought a darker background colour may show the isolation around others further. I thought about maybe using brown paper to print onto to see whether it heightened the feeling of loneliness. The image left in the ink, when held up to the light was also highly interesting so I have documented this as well.

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I went on to experiment with monoprinting onto brown paper, as predicted I feel that darker paper heightens the feeling of loneliness within the print. This relates to my grounds workshops and how background colours can influence the mood and atmosphere of a piece. Again, working with dark colours and creating a feeling of loneliness in my work is inspiring me to contrast it with looking at colour and experimenting with showing this loneliness even though the image is bright because at the moment, I feel that the dark tones of my work are definitely helping me along. I like challenging myself and taking risks throughout my project which I feel I already have but this seems a new way to stretch my project further. I  think that these initial monoprints are successful, they are the result of having no control of an outcome, they emphasise the fact that we don’t have control of how lonely we feel when wandering the city, because people have to engage with you, if you are trying to converse with them and they don’t reply at all, the loneliness is perhaps even heightened. Monoprint has definitely been a worthwhile experiment.


First Collaborative Drawing Session

As a group, we met up in Starbucks, armed with paper and a variety of drawing materials.  We grabbed a coffee and started preparing to sketch together. In terms of what we were drawing, we decided to draw imagery that relates to each of our projects and add in expressive marks and line work to make the drawings come together.

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It was nice to draw collaboratively in a casual environment, we were talking about what we were drawing and new ideas were emerging all the time.

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There were a very interesting mix of images coming out on the paper. Steph was drawing gravestones and cemetery imagery, I was sketching and expressing hidden loneliness, Chelsea drew patterns in the city and Beth sketched out hidden gems. It was interesting to see how all these drawings merged together into one collaborative drawing on the paper. There were many ideas and concepts hidden within it and the drawings came together to almost produce a homage to the city and city life, whether the ideas be positive or negative. Below are images of the outcomes we produced:

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We used a variety of media to produce these images including pencil, fine liner, charcoal, coloured pens, biro and chalk.

Our first attempt at drawing collaboratively has been very successful. We were surprised by how well the outcomes turned out. We agreed that the key to success here is that we didn’t worry about the result and just enjoyed drawing as a group. I think the drawings combine all our ideas and drawing styles very well and I am now very excited about producing more drawings with this group. Next time, we are thinking we could use more materials and methods of drawing. Maybe the textiles girls could stitch into the work etc.